By Jack Loder
Travis Honeyman dug into the right handed batter’s box at McKeon Park in Hyannis and laced a leadoff double to begin the game. He clapped his hands as he pulled into second base, symbolizing what seemed at the time like an offense awakened after being silenced for the latter half of Sunday night’s opening tie.
Instead, it was nine innings of famine from an offensive unit that has struggled through the first two contests of the summer as the Firebirds fell to 0-1-1 with a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. Of course, it’s a very small sample size, but the trend is still troubling for a group that prides itself on driving the baseball al over the yard. Orleans was retired in order four times, and Hyannis faced the minimum six times. Kelly Nicholson isn’t worried.
“It takes them a little while to get used to good arms and swinging wood bats,” he said. “Our guys are fine. Pitching is usually ahead of hitting to start.”
Orleans seemed determined to erase any traffic it put on the bases early on in the game. Brock Rodden and Kevin Sim each reached as the leadoff men in the second and third innings. Both attempted to steal and were thrown out by Hyannis backstop Jacob Campbell. Another baserunner, this time a Bennett Lee one out walk, was erased on a nifty double play. Each promising foundation of a potential rally was promptly erased, allowing the Hyannis hurlers to comfortably cruise in nearly every frame. Starter Ty Good carved Orleans with a healthy fastball and a mesmerizing 12-6 curveball.
The birds did threaten, however, in the seventh inning. A walk, an error and an infield single loaded the bases with two outs for catcher Garret Guillemette. Never one to be cheated on a hittable fastball, the USC product attacked the first pitch he saw and laced a one hop shot up the middle. Hyannis was perfectly positioned to defend one of Orleans’ only true barrels of the ballgame, retiring Guillemette to end the threat.
“They’re here for a reason,” Nicholson said. “We’re here to give them advice and help them with what they want to work on during the summer.”
Cole Stallings got the start on the mound for the Firebirds and showed why he led Stetson in innings pitched this season. While the end of his collegiate season was less than ideal, he flashed his high upside in three plus innings of work. The right-hander allowed two runs, victimized by the infield hit and a defensive lapse at first base by Kevin Sim. Stallings competed in the zone, and certainly gave his team a chance to win.
“I was ok, had a rough second inning,” Stallings said.
Just as they were on Opening night, the Firebird bullpen was air tight in a five shutout inning effort on Monday night. Cole Reynolds replaced Stallings and turned in two shutout frames before Cooper McKeehan turned in two flawless innings in the sixth and seventh. McKeehan, who expects to be drafted early in next month’s MLB draft, showcased a sizzling fastball with a knee-buckling curve on the side. His outing had Harbor Hawks and Firebirds fans alike letting out low whistles of impression.
“Im glad he’s on our team this time,” Nicholson said with a grin. “Last year he was over there and had his best outing against us.”
In two games, we’ve seen two pretty different lineups. Aside from a successful game from Luke Keaschall and Jacob Wilson in game one, the rest of the Firebird bats are still looking to get on track. It’s a lineup made up of some of the most gifted amateur hitters in the country, it’s just a matter of time.
“Like I said, these guys are here for a reason,” Nicholson said. “They’ll get going.”